A Pilipino couple’s mission
A life sharing given October 16, 2020at a Zoom Breakfast of the BCBP Davao North-West Chapter,
(Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals), Davao City, Philippines
By Ric and Annie Rufino Jr.
member, Music Ministry, BCBP Marikina Chapter
Click above link to listen to testimony of PIlipino Couple with a Mission
Ric Rufino, Jr. Speaks:
My wife Annie and I belong to the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals or BCBP, a Catholic community with chapters in practically all the cities of the Philippines, as well as in some major US cities, and even in Southeast Asia. Our Spiritual Director and founder is Fr. Herbert Schneider, S.J.
This morning, the Good Lord has instructed me to be a blessing, inspire and share His message of love to all of you.
My father died In 1986, 2 years after I was born so I never really had a relationship with him. But God is good. He gave me lots of father figures to fill the void that my dad left.
Raised a Catholic. I attended Catholic schools from kinder to college, played the keyboard at masses since my grade school years and was an altar boy as well.
After college, I had a job in a call center; got into tour operations
business as well as in financing for small and medium sized businesses.
Annie and I met in 2014, got engaged in 2015 and was married in 2016. We had our first boy in 2017 another one in 2018. Together, we managed our small business; actively served in our parish, and active too, in another charismatic community.
In 2018 I was invited to a men’s breakfast, paving the way for me to be a regular and later I became part of the music ministry. I remember being excited about my Saturday mornings because I get to spend it with those whom I regard as true brothers in Christ. I get to share my breakfast with inspiring people, some twice my age, but truly God’s faithful servants and disciples. The breakfasts, fellowships, prayer groups, assemblies, made my faith stronger.
Back then, everything was going our way. Growing a family, growing a business, even a growing relationship with the Lord. What I did not realize was that God was preparing me/us. He needed me/us to be strong because we had no idea what was about to hit us.
In 2019, Annie’s mom suffered a stroke. She was hospitalized for almost a month, underwent brain surgery and the doctor told us that she might never be the same again.
My mother-in-law was bedridden and was not the same mentally speaking, anymore. That was difficult for us because as mature as we are already, we are still young as a couple and Mama Imbing waa a pillar in our young home. She was Annie’s main source of support.
Before, while Annie and I handle our business affairs, we can always leave the kids with Mama. Now, aside from raising two toddlers, we need to take care of Mama too. Annie was devastated. I too was devastated.
I was really blessed with a loving and caring mother in law. I missed the normal Mama Imbing. I missed her cooking, her being frank about Annie’s home skills, I missed our Church days and our frequent” Mall- bonding” moments together with the kids. It was difficult for us, but as difficult as it is already, we never expected more challenges ahead.
Mid 2019, Annie started to feel discomfort in her throat. We went to an EENT and medications were given for a month but to no avail. The doctor then advised us to visit a neurologist. By then, Annie started loosing her grip. There was weakness in the hands.
The slurred voice which at first we thought to be related to acid reflux, was now becoming more obvious.
It was August of 2019 when we had the MRI to see if Annie suffered a mild stroke. Results were normal. We did a spinal MRI but still nothing irregular was found.
October 2019, we had our EMG exam to check the nerves of Annie. Still nothing there.
December 2019, our 2nd EMG nothing still. The doctor was clueless about Annie’s condition.
But what is sure is that it was a neuro muscular condition wherein nerves and muscles and motor skills are affected.
We were trying to be brave despite the uncertain condition of Annie. Every visit to the doctor was really difficult. The opening of every MRI and EMG test result handed to us was nerve wracking. Every time a negative result came up brought us great relief.. But the relief would only last for a couple of minutes because we would then realize that we still did’nt know what’s happening with Annie.
A BCBP couple, who were daily Mass goers with us, also noticed Annie’s condition. They were worried and kept us always in their prayers. They always ask for updates and would remind us to cling to the Lord and everything will be fine. They did “pray overs” for Annie a couple of times.
Our prayer group head was also very caring. Prior to the pandemic, we would meet at his house and everyone was praying for Annie. Everyone was giving assuring words and it was as if God was using everyone to remind us that He is always with us, amidst the difficult situation.
2019 came with a lot of uncertainties but again, we never imagined that our hurdles were just beginning.
Our business operations ceased on March 2020 due to the pandemic. We were in the tourism industry and our main clients are schools. We had no choice but to close down, given the uncertainties that came with lockdowns and quarantines, etc.
Then, another family member got sick. Annie’s dad was a diabetic, and in the 1st quarter of 2020, it became worse. He was swollen all over and lab results indicated a kidney problem that was off the charts.
We now have 3 patients at home. Annie with a “No Medical Diagnosis”, Mama Imbing, bedridden due to stroke and Papa Rolly ailing with a kidney problem. What a combination! My wife’s family all sick and we were jobless.
But the Lord is good, He had other plans. March 2020, Annie got pregnant again. At first we were afraid because of Annie’s health issues.
But the doctors gave us hope. telling us that they think Annie can deliver full term. It was a unique pregnancy. Unlike the other two, this time, Annie has disabilities. Which means, that we, me and Annie, the two of us, we really have this pregnancy.
Now I was more deeply involved in this compared to the previous two because Annie needed me to assist and be with her always.
We prayed hard for a safe pregnancy because our OB now placed Annie on top of her watchlist ; given the neuro-muscular concern.
But God was with us all the way. We were sick, we didn’t have enough resources for the delivery of the baby. But GOD made sure that He’d always send help and assistance from various folks in our lives at the exact moments we needed them.
A relative, a close friend, a co-worker, even an acquaintance; God sent different folks to express His love for us.
Baby Rich was born healthy on Dec.28,2020. Against all odds, as told by our OB. Baby Rich was another assurance from God that He is with us. That our mission was not over. That He still has plans for us.
With a new baby in our family. I saw again the sparkle in Annie’s eyes. She was really excited especially in breastfeeding the baby. But as I look joyously at our new blessing, I cannot help but feel frightened as I take a look at the progressing condition of my wife.
By January 2021, Annie’s voice was barely recognizable; there was more weakness in her upper limbs, slight weakness in her lower limbs, difficulty in swallowing liquids, at times choking, muscle wasting in her hands and feet, and weight loss.
All of these made me miss the old Annie. All of this, made me ask God, why these things needed to happen, especially to Annie, who is the most kind-hearted, sweet, caring, faithful and probably the closest person to God thatI I had ever met.
I cried. Alone. I did not want Annie to see me. I did not want my family to see me. I was Annie’s source of strength and I thought that if she saw my crying, I wouldn’t be effective anymore in comforting her whenever she cries.
I did not want my family to see me cry because I don’t want them to worry. I always say to folks that I trust the Lord. And my idea was that if people saw me as weak, it would be a reflection on my lack of faith. Thus, I kept everything to myself.
I can see that behind Annie’s joy in having a new baby, is her frustration and sadness over the fact that she cannot carry anymore this baby because of her now weakened arms; that she can’t talk or sing lullabies for baby Rich and that diaper changing and bathing the baby was also now out of the picture for her.
Sometimes i feel crazy inside, thinking what a mess this situation is that I am in. Thinking, as I did, these situations only exists in drama films or Real life Story TV shows or “Tele-Novelas”. And yet, here I am. Right in the middle of something similar.
As much as I myself am struggling, I know it is worlds apart compared to Annie who is personally, in her own being, experiencing the suffering in her body and in her soul, deep inside.
As to what level of sadness she might be trying to subdue inside her, I can only try to empathize and imagine. The frustration over not being able to do the things that she used to do for herself, for her kids and for her family, would have been really difficult.
Then I realized, that It was probably because God knows Annie much too much; that God knows that Annie will continue to cling to the Lord, But specially now when the going gets tough.
February 2021, after a visit to our neurologist, I got a text from the doctor saying that we needed to talk over the phone about Annie.
You could imagine how fast my heart beat was while I approached the phone and dialing the doctor’s number. I did a sign of the cross then, and said hello to the doctor. Then the doctor told me, “Ric, you need to be strong, I know things are difficult already for you and Annie, but this might still progress. Annie has ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease. A progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. Cause: unknown. Cure: None yet. Life expectancy, according to the internet: 2 to 5 years. You can Google it and it would just scare you more.”
The Lord was with me during that phone call. I felt His calmness. I felt Him hugging me and whispering to me “Do not be afraid. Remain in me.”
And that is what i did. After the phone call, I went back to Annie as if nothing had happened. I actually didn’t know how to tell her. One thing for sure, I needed to pray for guidance on when and or how I’d tell my wife about the diagnosis.
A lot of things were running inside my head. What ifs, future scenarios if the disease progresses, financial difficulties brought about by the management of the condition; to top it off was the fact that we still don’t have a livelihood, or that I cannot even try to get a daily job because i chose to be beside Annie, to care for her and spend every second of the day with her, trying to treasure every moment of togetherness, knowing that it might not be the same again tomorrow or next week or God knows when. A lot of uncertainties was in my head and in my heart. And it was really a struggle.
I prayed to the Lord to guide me in discussing the matter with Annie. I was confused. I did not know if telling her about the diagnosis would help us or would make matters worse because she might fall into depression.
It was really a dilemma. I first told my own Mom about the diagnosis, then, Annie’s siblings. All of them agreed that perhaps I should take time before telling Annie. I knew God will provide for the perfect time. So I waited.
It was mid March, and we were supposed to attend an online household prayer meeting of another community.
Annie and I got into a small discussion. She was frustrated because i don’t allow her anymore to do anything by herself around the house. At first, I was simply explaining to her why. That I was just worried that she might fall or trip or break something if i allowed her to do house chores.
But the Holy Spirit moved me, and words came out of my mouth and I was able to discuss the diagnosis with Annie. Surprisingly she looked calm. She cried very briefly but it was just a soft and gentle cry.
The Holy Spirit told me to tell her that we should see this situation as a Mission given to us by God.
I told her that given the diagnosis, I bet God doesn’t want us spreading sadness and despair to relatives and friends but more of joy, love, faith, hope and a never ending praise for Him.
That no one else can handle this Mission but us. We were brought together by God to do this Mission together. I told her that we should not waste anymore time over sadness and to use every bit of life we have to inspire more people to increase their faith, to tell our story of struggle, and not to despair but to touch people’s lives and to help them be better Christians.
ALS is a very rare condition. I told Annie that this Mission is so rare, it requires special people to handle it. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. But I told her that at least this is one step that is closer to her goal of being in heaven with God. She might even have a chance at being a saint while doing the Mission. All these words, i didn’t prepare. It was all God’s.
That night, I realized how important it is to surrender to Him. We shouldn’t be fighting the battle alone and relying on our own strength. It should always be with Him.
Annie now speaks:
I have ALS. And it was only last Mar 13 when my husband revealed it to me. He didn’t inform me right away as he was still gauging how would I take it. I’m still a work in progress, in processing, in accepting and embracing fully why God allowed this to happen to me.
It has no known cure and at the latter stages I could become immobile and bedridden. Also, we’re only 5 years married, and our boys are just 4 years old, 3 years old and six months old. I can’t even teach them the alphabets. I can’t even carry and change the diaper of baby Rich. I even needed to stop momentarily my breastfeeding our baby, as I drink a medicine that might help delay the progress of my sickness.
There are very few instances when i feel sorry for my hubby; even if it is difficult to look after a sick person. But with the grace of God, I’m getting stronger to fight off negative feelings and in keeping a positive disposition.
Jesus has been assuring me that He will heal me, Mother Mary and St Joseph also are assuring me. I must not doubt. But my hubby told me, we will earnestly pray for the miracle of healing but at the end of our prayer, we will say, “May His will be done” as He always has the best plans.
The love of my hubby, kids, family relatives and friends will heal me. I’m surrounded with loving and supportive loved ones. We have so many intercessors, nuns and priests, our parish community, BCBP, CFC bros and sisters, relatives.
We also seek the intercession of all the Saints and the angels. I’m in a win- win situation. If healing comes, it means my purpose here on earth is not yet done. Claiming it will be a powerful testimony of His love, mercy and providence.
And of course I’m haggling with God to accept me in heaven when in my final moment I would claim I’m God’s spoiled daughter. First, I have a hubby who is journeying with me and who promised that he won’t leave me till the end of my sickness. What an assurance.
I can see His hands and His spoiling of me. I do not experience pains; just a little discomfort but I could offer it for the conversion of sinners; to have more holy vocations, to save souls in purgatory and Jesus knows I love eating. Some PALS have difficulty in swallowing but I still can eat a lot. I thank my husband for everything, for taking care of me and our kids, for providing for all our needs, for being my rock, my fortress, my strength, my protector, my comforter; to face my sickness with a positive and hopeful disposition, for filling up the slack in the raising our kids.
I greatly appreciate the tiniest and the biggest things he does for our family, especially for me. Despite life’s full challenges and uncertainties, one thing is sure: I have a big God. I see my God in all of my life’s situations. Jesus’ resurrection is His promise that we will also experience the same. Our permanent home is to be with Him in heaven.
Ric speaks, again:
Right now, Annie is undergoing physical therapy and speech therapy. There is no pervasive sign of the disease progressing. She still pretty much needs assistance in almost everything but i told her that we must look at this as a gift from God.
We spend much more time together now than other couples. We do almost everything together. I am given the chance by God to take care of her in an extra special way, not normal for other husbands. I prepare food for her, I assist her in drinking meds, I clean her up, I comb her hair, I bathe and clothe her, I walk with her almost everywhere, I assist her standing up, sitting down, i tuck her in bed, i’m there when she needs to pee, and all, and now I even helping her during her period.
Do I still see this as a struggle? Do I count this as hardship? Definitely no.
I praise and thank the Lord for the opportunity given to me to take care of one of His most precious daughter. When I pledged my love to my wife in the altar, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do we part, this is basically it. I am not really doing anything extra ordinary but I am just being true to my promise to her in front of the Lord.
I realized that struggles are difficult because we outright see them as negatives, because if something we didn’t foresee or plan happens to us, we take it negatively and wrap it around the idea that it is a hardship.
We sometimes fail to see that perhaps what is happening to us has a reason. That the difficulty is only difficult because we take it as something not good for us. Struggle, by definition – is a forceful effort to get free from restraint. If I consider our situation as a restraint, i would fight it off and probably just get tired and frustrated. But if i see it as part of God’s magnificent plan in our life and continue to praise and worship him despite all of what seems to be negatives in front of us, in short, if we just truly surrender to Him and say Thy Will be done, then we struggle no more.
Last month, we had another mission to complete. My father-in-law, whom we sent last year to our province to receive dialysis treatment, was instead infected with Covid19.
He stayed in the hospital for a week without a loved one by his side because of restrictions. Eventually, he succumbed to the dreaded virus and passed away May 30: he was 71. We last saw him last holiday season when he visited us for a couple of days; then virtually some two weeks before he was admitted. That was the last time we saw him. We lost him and never even had the chance to say goodbye.
I was more afraid for my wife because I knew how much she loved Papa. But the Lord was good. And thank God that Mama and Annie’s brother were spared the infection. With prayers from relatives, friends, our parish and the community, Papa’s passing seemed to be a beautiful reunion of people who unknowingly, loved him. The Lord is good. He moves in mysterious ways. And even if the passing of our father-in law was a sad event in our lives, God made it bearable for everyone. He made sure that our disappointment in life became an appointment with Him.
We choose to live life still to the fullest. One day at a time although still carefully planning for what’s up ahead. We choose to cherish each other, our entire family, and take this chance where everyone is looking at us, to shine bright and try to lead people closer to the Lord.
We know that Annie’s condition might progress: we know from science that there is no known cure, but we also know that we have an Almighty God. We also know that during the time when no one knew how to cure leprosy, Jesus healed the leper. Anything is possible with the Lord. If He wills it in our lives. But most important is we surrender to Him fully. What’s necessary is we always say “Thy Will be done Lord.”
We consider being part of BCBP a blessing from God. He worked out His plan in our lives perfectly without us even knowing it.
If I were to backtrack every happening that led to this day, where I find myself giving witness to God’s providential love, It was because back in 2014, I bit an apple and broke a tooth and went to a dentist who happened to be the best friend of my wife Annie.
That dentist hooked us up; we got married and I started living here in Marikina where, because of my wife, I became an active parish worker and met the BCBP Brothers. And the rest was really a wonderful God- given history with Marikina Chapter.
Our difficulties are not yet finished. Our mission has just started. I still have daily struggles. The devil never stops hammering on the “negatives”in our lives.
And our brothers in the community acts as part of the army of God that supports and protects us. There’s a brother who never forgets to invite us to attend assemblies and online activities. There’s another brother who randomly sends uplifting messages every now and then. A BCBP couple who assured us of their continues prayer for me and Annie. There’s also a brother whom I consider as a father figure, whose gestures of concern, I really appreciate for I feel the genuineness of his care.
Then, recently, we had a new online action (prayer) group. I was assigned a brother as a prayer partner and I must say that God is using that brother. Because at times, all I need is someone who’d ask me how I am doing. And that’s what he does.
At moments of sadness, all I need is someone whom I can send a message to and ask if he could pray for me. And that’s what I do now with him. I cannot do this with my family because as I’ve said, I don’t want them to see me in my weak state.
And it really helps to know that I have brothers in BCBP who can always help me pray. And my goal is to actually increase that group of mine by sharing my story to more people with the hope that during their prayer times, they would remember to include me, my wife and my family in their prayers.
So you see, God knew, that I would need BCBP in my mission. He knew from the start that I would need prayer warriors. Strong men of faith, dedicated to His mission.
As we end our sharing, let me share with you how the Holy Spirit again placed words in my mouth to comfort my wife. A few weeks ago, Annie got sad a bit so as usual i sat down with her and comforted her. Then it came to me.
The Spirit said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Cor. 12:9-11
So i told Annie, because she has weakness all over, 24 hours a day, God’s power is perfected in her life every second of the day. Because she cannot do things by herself anymore, it is God’s power that sustains her.
As her body weakens, as she surrenders more to the Lord, she is actually becoming stronger because the power of the Lord rests fully in her.
So just like what the bible verse was telling us, instead of being sad because of struggles and difficulties, we must instead delight, rejoice, for Christ’s sake. For when we are in struggle and weak, then we are strong.
Thank you for listening to me and giving me the chance to share not really my struggles but more of my delights. I hope that you saw me not with sadness but with joy and hope. I hope that God was able to use me today, to talk about hardships and trials but at the same time inspire and reinforce your faith.
Let us continue to pray for each other as we journey to a life filled with graces from the Lord and let us continue to praise and thank Him for His’ is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, now and forever Amen.
Note: if you want to help the Rufinos, see details below. Below is a reaction from BCBP members Eduardo Pelaez and Teng Sazon, Chapter Head.
On Wed, Oct 20, 2021 at 2:17 AM Eduardo Pelaez <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Ed,The Rufino Couple sharing is one of a kind…How do you cope with their situation and challenges?It’s a must to attend IF no urgent schedule or issues on their Schedule date of sharing.Bong
From Eduardo Pelaez to me:
“Ed, Oct.2 was the was the Rufino Couple sharing. Spontaneously, the BCBP Cagayan de Oro West Chapter Head Teng Sazon decided to send financial assistance. Beng and I asked for their bank account.
Below are the details
” Hi Chap Teng:
Good morning. Just sharing the Rufinos’ Bank Account details:
BCBP CDO West and some members ( Beng and I) gave financial assistance out of compassion.
This is so much inspiring that I am so touched. I can relate to what he is going through. Just like him, my faith in God is so strong . I just offer everything to Him. The only difference is I don’t have a lot of prayer warriors like he has. But I know God looks after me otherwise I wouldn’t be enjoying life the way I do now. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. For sure, I will be reading this again and again so to comfort me in time of sadness. I thank God for a friend like you even you came later in my lifetime. Truly appreciate your time and calls. Talking with you is comforting .God bless you more.
From Dolly Ilogon, Long Island, NY
From Rudy Mendiola, Chapter Head, BCBP CHICAGO Nov 2021
Yes bro, send me the link.
A powerful sharing on God’s abiding love.
From Mark Huddy, Columbus Diocese
Thanks for sending, Edie. A powerful testimony about faith and trust in God in the most challenging circumstances. I have put the Rufino family on my prayer list.
Note: I requested the Rufinos to upload on YouTube their Life Testimony. We plan to upload the same at this site(www.bcbpohio.com) Will update you.